Sabrina L. Spencer, Ph.D.


Sabrina L. Spencer, Ph.D.
Pew Stewart Scholars
Assistant Professor
Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of Colorado, Boulder
3415 Colorado Ave
596 UCB
City, State, ZIP
Boulder, Colorado 80302
United States
(617) 894-3196
[email protected]
Research field
Cell Biology; Systems Biology; Cancer Biology
Award year


Uncontrolled growth is a hallmark of cancer where standard treatment options are designed to target rapidly dividing cells. However, the long-term effectiveness of cancer drugs can be hindered by resistance to treatment and tumor recurrence. Studies have shown that relapse can be driven by a population of slow-growing or dormant cancer cells that are not destroyed by initial treatment. Our lab will characterize the origin and impact of this slow-growing population on drug resistance using a specialized live-cell sensor of CDK2, a key protein in driving cell division. We will use this tool to determine the root cause of the slow-cycling state, and to determine whether slow-cycling cells have increased stress and drug resistance. If indeed slow-cycling cells are in a fortified drug-resistant state, the sources of cell stress causing slow-cycling that we identify will suggest ways either to eliminate this stress to return cells to a drug-sensitive state, or to deepen this stress for a lethal effect when combined with another cancer therapeutic. In the long term, this work could offer solutions to combat the emergence of drug-resistant tumors in cancer patients.

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